Canada’s energy juggernaut hits a native roadblock – by Linada McQuaig (Toronto Star – January 15, 2013)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

Those who believe we can freely trash the environment in our quest to make ourselves richer suffer from a serious delusion — a delusion that doesn’t appear to afflict aboriginal people.

Aboriginals tend to live in harmony with Mother Earth. Their approach has long baffled and irritated Canada’s white establishment, which regards it as a needless impediment to unbridled economic growth.

Nowhere is this irritation more palpable than inside Stephen Harper’s government, with its fierce determination to turn Canada into an “energy superpower,” regardless of the environmental consequences. So it’s hardly surprising that the Harper government has ended up in a confrontation with Canada’s First Nations.

Certainly the prime minister has shown a ruthlessness in pursuing his goal of energy superpowerdom. He has gutted long-standing Canadian laws protecting the environment, ramming changes through Parliament last December as part of his controversial omnibus bill. He has thumbed his nose at global efforts to tackle climate change, revoking Canada’s commitment to Kyoto.

And he’s launched a series of witch-hunt audits of environmental groups that dared to challenge the rampant development of Alberta’s oilsands — one of the world’s biggest sources of climate-changing emissions — as well as plans for pipelines through environmentally sensitive areas.

But, while there’s been some resistance from provincial governments, opposition parties, and environmentalists, Ottawa’s energy juggernaut has continued to surge ahead.

At least until now. With the First Nations, Harper may have met his Waterloo.

Among other things, Harper’s attack on Canada’s environmental laws included rewriting parts of the Indian Act, thereby removing safeguards for native land and waters that are protected in the Constitution.

Of course, even with the Constitution on the side of aboriginals, it’s hard to imagine a group consisting of some of the poorest people on the continent taking on the federal government, backed up by corporate Canada, and winning.

After all, the First Nations are divided, and the government has deftly exploited these divisions. Furthermore, many influential media commentators side with the government, helping it portray aboriginals as impractical dreamers unable to understand the dictates of the global economy.

For the rest of this column, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1314987–canada-s-energy-juggernaut-his-a-native-roadblock

 

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